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Comparing NCLEX RN Vs NCLEX PN: Similarities and Differences

In summary, the NCLEX RN and NCLEX PN are two nursing licensure exams with similarities and differences. Understanding these will help you make an informed decision about which one is right for you. Here’s a breakdown of the key points:

Quick Overview

The NCLEX RN is an exam for registered nurses, testing their knowledge and skills for entry-level nursing practice. Passing this exam allows you to practice as a registered nurse.

The NCLEX PN is an exam for practical nurses (LPNs/LVNs), testing their knowledge and skills for entry-level practical nursing practice. Passing this exam allows you to practice as a practical nurse.

Understanding the Similarities Between NCLEX RN and NCLEX PN

Conceptual Overlap

Both exams cover similar nursing concepts and principles, including patient care, pharmacology, health promotion, and disease prevention. The focus is on assessing your ability to apply this knowledge in real-world nursing scenarios.

Test Format and Structure

Both exams follow a computerized adaptive testing (CAT) format. This means that the difficulty of the questions adapts to your performance level. The exams are designed to determine your competency level, regardless of the number of questions answered.

Standard of Passing

Both exams have a standard passing score that is determined by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN). You need to achieve this score or higher to pass and obtain your nursing license.

Grasping the Differences Between the NCLEX RN and NCLEX PN

Testing Time and Number of Questions

The NCLEX RN is longer in duration and has more questions compared to the NCLEX PN. The RN exam lasts up to 6 hours, while the PN exam lasts up to 5 hours. The number of questions may vary, but generally, the RN exam has 75-265 questions, while the PN exam has 85-205 questions.

Job Roles and Responsibilities

RN’s have a broader scope of practice, which includes more advanced nursing tasks and responsibilities. They can work in various healthcare settings, including hospitals, clinics, and specialized units.

On the other hand, PN’s provide basic nursing care under the supervision of RN’s or physicians. They typically work in long-term care facilities, rehabilitation centers, and outpatient clinics.

Salary and Job Outlook

RN’s generally have higher earning potential and more opportunities for career advancement compared to PN’s. The demand for RN’s is also higher, with a projected growth rate of 7% from 2019 to 2029, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. PN’s have a projected growth rate of 9% during the same period.

Making the Right Choice: NCLEX RN or NCLEX PN

Considering Your Career Goals

If you aspire to take on leadership roles, specialize in a specific area of nursing, or pursue advanced practice, the NCLEX RN is the right choice. However, if you prefer a more hands-on role, working under the supervision of RN’s, and are content with the scope of practice as a practical nurse, the NCLEX PN may be a better fit.

Looking at Your Academic Qualifications

To be eligible for the NCLEX RN, you need to have completed a registered nursing program, such as a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN). For the NCLEX PN, you need to have completed a practical nursing program, such as a diploma or certificate program.

Weighing Your Personal Circumstances and Preferences

Consider factors such as your financial situation, family responsibilities or commitments, and personal preferences when making your decision. Reflect on whether you have the time and resources to pursue a longer and more demanding program, or if a shorter and more focused practical nursing program aligns better with your current circumstances.

Preparing for Success: Tips for Both Exams

Studying Techniques for Both Exams

Regardless of which exam you choose, it’s important to develop effective study techniques. This may include creating a study schedule, utilizing study materials such as textbooks and practice questions, participating in study groups or online forums, and seeking guidance from experienced nurses or educators.

Strategies for Test Day

On the day of the exam, make sure to get a good night’s sleep, eat a healthy meal, and arrive at the testing center early. Read each question carefully, eliminate obvious incorrect answers, and use critical thinking skills to select the best answer. Don’t spend too much time on difficult questions—mark them for review and come back to them later.

Handling Post-Exam Stress and Next Steps

After taking the exam, it’s natural to feel anxious about the results. Remember to take care of yourself by engaging in stress-reducing activities such as exercise, spending time with loved ones, and practicing self-care. Once you receive your results, whether it’s a pass or fail, take the necessary steps to move forward in your nursing career, such as applying for licensure or exploring further education opportunities.

Remember to prepare for success by developing effective study techniques, employing strategies on test day, and taking care of yourself throughout the process. Good luck on your nursing journey!


Q: Can I take both the NCLEX RN and NCLEX PN exams?
Yes, you can take both exams if you meet the eligibility requirements for both. However, passing one exam does not automatically grant you a license for the other. Each exam is specific to the corresponding nursing role (RN or PN).

Q: Are the passing rates for the NCLEX RN and NCLEX PN the same?
No, the passing rates for the NCLEX RN and NCLEX PN may vary. The passing rate is determined by the performance of test takers on the exam. It is important to note that the passing rate is not a set percentage and can change over time.

Q: Can I work as an RN if I pass the NCLEX PN exam?
No, passing the NCLEX PN exam only grants you a license to practice as a practical nurse (PN). To work as a registered nurse (RN), you would need to pass the NCLEX RN exam and obtain an RN license.

Q: Can I work as an RN if I have an NCLEX PN license from a different country?
The requirements for working as an RN with an NCLEX PN license from a different country vary by state and country. In some cases, additional education or examinations may be required to obtain an RN license. It is important to contact the nursing regulatory board in the state you wish to work in for specific guidance.

Q: Are there any limitations on the practice of RNs or PNs after passing the NCLEX exams?
The scope of practice for RNs and PNs may be regulated by state laws and nursing regulations. Familiarize yourself with the specific regulations in the state where you plan to practice. Some states may have additional requirements or restrictions on certain nursing tasks or procedures.